Gagai comes of age in Newcastle
Newcastle Knights centre Dane Gagai is a changed man.
In what's been a year of growth for the 25-year-old, Gagai's world took a turn for the better three months ago following the birth of his son Dante.
The Knights' season has been unfortunate to say the least – and while Gagai offset that with another State of Origin series victory for Queensland – his crowning glory has been the beginning of his own little family.
To be able to do that in Newcastle, a town that welcomed him in 2012 following his Broncos dismissal, has been huge for Gagai.
Wayne Bennett tried his hardest to get the Mackay local back up to Brisbane when he was off-contract last year to no avail.
Gagai's decision to re-sign with the Knights only reaffirmed what the Hunter meant to him and now he gets to share that with his boy and partner Kelly.
"He's been a shining light in my life. He puts a whole other perspective on life. [Prior to Dante's birth] it wasn't too bad for me because I didn't have a kid or anything like that," Gagai told NRL.com.
"Perhaps it was selfish of me but I could go about myself and do what I wanted to do. But now having a little baby, it changes everything.
"It's nice to come home to a little one who doesn't care that you have won a game or lost a game, all that matters is his little smile."
"My partner has been unbelievable. She's so supportive of me. The partner of any player in any sport, you really have to take your hat off to them," Gagai added.
"It's a credit to the NRL that they have the Women in League Round and celebrate all women who get amongst this game because we are away a lot of the time."
Thankfully Gagai won't have to travel too far for the remainder of the month, with the Knights' last-start loss to the Bulldogs the club's first of four consecutive games at Hunter Stadium.
Dubbed 'Awesome August' by the Knights, the first of the four games was in celebration of Gagai himself after bringing up 100 games for the club.
Despite their subpar season the Knights amazingly still sit in the top six of crowd averages in 2016.
Gagai was also hopeful of the Knights recording their second win of the season with home games against the Panthers, Titans and Rabbitohs to come.
"It's a special time for me. The support everyone has shown me since I've moved to Newcastle has just been unbelievable. The fans have been unreal," Gagai said.
"We're not going that good on the ladder but to see the fans turn up and show their support is what I love about Newcastle. They turn up no matter what and they'll always back us.
"Four consecutive home games is unheard of but it's nice. All the boys are really looking forward to putting in a good finish to the season.
"Obviously it hasn't been one of the greatest seasons we have had but we'll be looking towards building.
"It's important for the pre-season and for the years ahead so that everyone here knows what's expected of them when you chuck on the Knights jersey."